China on Monday urged Russia and the United States to pursue "drastic" reductions to their nuclear arms stockpiles, and called on all possessor states to formally offer no-first-use guarantees for their atomic arsenals, Reuters reported (see GSN, April 5).
"As countries with (the) largest nuclear arsenals, U.S. and Russia should continue to make drastic reductions in their nuclear arsenals in a verifiable and irreversible manner," Chinese diplomat Cheng Jingye said during a conference on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in Vienna, Austria.
"Other nuclear-weapon states, when conditions are ripe, should also join the multilateral negotiations on nuclear disarmament," according to Beijing's lead envoy to the event.
China, France, and the United Kingdom are the world's other three recognized nuclear powers, while India, Israel and Pakistan are known or assumed to have developed nuclear arsenals outside the NPT accord.
Russia and the United States agreed under the New START accord to by 2018 reduce their respective fielded strategic arsenals to 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems. The Obama administration has said it would like to open new arms control talks with the Kremlin that could address nonstrategic weapons and warheads held in storage, but issue specialists do not believe formal negotiations would take place in the near future.
The U.S. representative to the Vienna meeting, Ambassador Susan Burk, told attendees that Washington was advancing its arms control goals and would "detail those efforts this week" (see GSN, April 4).
"The United States has made clear on many occasions that it understands its special responsibility to take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons by pursuing nuclear disarmament," Burk said.
Beijing is seen to be the world's No. 3 nuclear weapons holder. The nation has refused to provide specifics on the size and scope of its arsenal but the Pentagon projects China keeps between roughly 130 and 195 fielded nuclear-ready ballistic missiles, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, France said it was one of several nations in the last decade-and-a-half to have implemented "ambitious, irreversible" steps to draw down its nuclear arsenal and today possesses fewer than 300 weapons, according to its envoy to the two-week meeting.
"In the last 15 years we have cut the number of nuclear warheads by half," said Jean Hugues Simon-Michel.
The United Kingdom's representative to the conference, Jo Adamson, said her nation is "fully committed to the long-term goal" of worldwide nuclear disarmament. The British nuclear arsenal is comprised of fewer than 180 nuclear warheads.
However, while other nations retain substantial nuclear numbers and the potential for more countries to acquire similar weapons exists, London's "judgment is that only a credible nuclear capability can provide the necessary ultimate guarantee to our national security," Adamson said.
The Chinese ambassador called for establishment of a no-first-use pact for nuclear weapons. He also criticized other nations' work on antimissile capabilities, which he warned would "disrupt global strategic balance" and so "should be abandoned" (see GSN, April 12; Fredrik Dahl, Reuters, April 30).